Machinists employed by Hawker Beechcraft have rejected a new seven-year contract, raising questions about the company's future in Wichita. The workers voted 55 percent against the deal, which would have cut their pay by 10 percent and raised their health insurance premiums. "It was just a bad contract. Everything. Wages, insurance and everything else was just bad," sheet metal worker Gerald Church told the Wichita Eagle A new contract was a condition of a state incentive package aimed at keeping the company and its 6,000 employees in Wichita in the face of an attempt by Louisiana to lure the company there. However, some employees leaving the voting said it was their belief that the contract would just delay the inevitable and that Hawker Beechcraft has already decided to move. Hawker Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture didn't directly address the company's future in Wichita. "The company will continue exploring all options and making a series of business decisions in order to remain profitable and competitive in this smaller market," Boisture said.
Hawker Beechcraft makes mostly midsized business jets and it's that sector that has suffered the most during the economic downturn. At this week's National Business Aviation Association convention, much of the news is expected to be generated in the large-cabin sector. Like other companies, Hawker Beechcraft has laid off thousands of workers in response to the downturn and union members seem particularly peeved that the company is outsourcing some of the jobs that remain. "There's been a lot of unknowns for a long time for the members, with all the outsourcing going on," said union spokeswoman Rita Rogers. "They decided to hold on to what they had right now, and they feel they had enough."